When it decided this week to continue to fund the government (for the time being), Congress also kicked the can down the road on another program that could affect thousands of Americans and foreigners alike. The EB-5 visa program allows wealthy people around the world to essentially buy green cards by investing in development projects in the United States.
The question facing Congress was whether to preserve a part of the program known as regional centers. These centers are essentially development projects through which foreigners pool their money, enabling them to get their visas. The provision that set up regional centers, which have become by far the most popular way place for investors to put their money, was set to expire September 30. Some observers thought this was a good thing, since regional centers were supposed to encourage investment in rural and high unemployment areas, but instead were helping to fund projects in wealthy areas such as Manhattan.
Under the current law, investors must put $1 million into a project to get a visa. But regional centers allow investors to put money into a “Targeted Employment Area,” which is a place with high unemployment, and pay just $500,000. The idea behind a TEA was to encourage investment in rural areas that don’t see much foreign investment.